The US Mid-West is large and flat. Very large and very flat. I saw a lot of large and flat last week. Tuesday I was in Indiana… Wednesday and Thursday in Wisconsin and Friday back in Indiana. I flew (far), I drove (lots), I slept (not enough), I drank coffee (too much).
Tuesday and Friday involved meeting partners. Tuesday – a very strong partner (shirt and tie). Friday – a potential exciting partner (suit and tie). Two decidedly different days – both highly engaging and both very thought provoking.
Wednesday and Thursday was the highlight of my first year – two days on talent development and succession planning. Two days focussed on our people. Two days with discussions on science, strategy, history, teamwork, budgets, today, partners, competitors, process and tomorrow. But two days where our focus was people. Our people, our development, our future.
We always talk about people when we meet as a leadership team, but last week was different. Different because we only spoke about our people. It was great. Inspiring, amusing and moving. And at times all three together. Above all it was energising. Everything we have done, are doing, or aspire to achieve…has been done, is being done, and will be done by our people. The right people given the right opportunity will take us to places we haven’t even dared dream about yet…
Talent development is all about identifying and maximising potential of our people. There are many ways and means – succession mapping, career planning, performance management, personal development etc. But – by far – the most important is to create an intrinsic culture where employees feel valued, supported, developed and encouraged to achieve their full potential. This is the environment in which I feel most valued, most engaged and most motivated. And where I deliver most.
Two days on people is important. Time is important. I find that session like these work best when each team member has more time than they think they need. Or want. Everyone prepares for their slot on the agenda. Slides, words and themes . The key is to keep everyone talking for longer. To move past prepared messages. To move into uncharted territory. To involve everyone and to invite as much comment as possible. This is when we don’t know quite what we will discover but it’s where we have chance to learn something new and different…something significant.
And there is also a speed factor. Most industries – and ours especially – experience continual, and rapid, change. An environment where complexity and expectation only ever increases. To thrive and survive…to succeed and exceed…we – we as people, as leaders, as companies – have to learn and apply faster than the rate of change we are experiencing and – just as importantly – faster than our competition.
How we train and what we learn has to keep track with changes around us. For example, it’s always been the case that we need individuals and teams who can repeatedly do more with less. But these days we value – and therefore have to coach – ability to make good decisions whilst working in the matrix and in the face of ambiguity. We learn and admire how to lead across cultures and time zones. We know how important is to make the right decision for today, but realise how essential it is to make the right plans for next week, next month and next year.
I flew home Friday night…tired. But my week had been exciting and energising. I found out things I did not know. I learned things I had not thought about. I resolved to do things I had never considered before.